Weight gain could have a whole lot to do with taste, according to a recent study. Cornell University food scientists have found a link between dulled taste and obesity, proving that weight gain may not be solely about what you’re eating, but more about how you’re tasting what you’re eating.
According to their research, those with dulled taste buds seek out foods that are higher in sugar, and therefore higher in calories. “We found that the more people lost sensitivity to sweetness, the more sugar they wanted in their foods,” said lead author Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science in a statement.
The link between taste and intake isn’t a new idea, but this is apparently the first time anyone tested to see if the dullness of taste buds directly affected what people chose to eat.
Those participating in the test were given an herbal tea with low, medium or high concentrations of the herb Gymnema Sylvestre. This herb is known to temporarily block sweet receptors in taste buds.
“The study showed that for a regular, sugary 16-ounce soft drink, a person with a 20 percent reduction in the ability to taste sweet would crave an extra teaspoon of sugar to reach an optimal level of sweetness, as compared to someone with unaltered taste response,” the study states.
In other words, an obese person with dulled taste buds may begin to seek out foods with higher amounts of sugar to reach a desired taste level.
Apparently, it’s pretty common to experience dulled sensitivity in taste buds. According to HealthLine, the common cold, smoking and nutritional deficiencies in B12 and zinc are just some of the causes of impaired taste.
The publication says lifestyle change is the best way to gain back full taste. Getting over a cold, quitting smoking and changing your diet can all restore your taste buds.
Dando told ABC News that the information surrounding taste buds’ sensitivity and weight gain could be helpful for weight loss therapies and techniques. Instead of counting calories, it may be important for people to focus on eating more mindfully and slowly, and getting the most amount of taste per bite.
A caveat to this advice: Focusing on smell has been proven to cause weight gain, too, so there’s definitely a balance you need to strike with your mindful eating. And getting it just right is easier said than done.